Education in the RP: a broken system that needs fixing

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Hi all,

This election season, you’ll hear a lot of candidates talk about how important education is. It is true, too. Quality education allows young people from poor families to succeed in society and provide a better, more equitable future. Many candidates will also say that they’ll place great emphasis on education. Pero palagi nalang eh. If all who had promised this had done so – starting with our current president – we’d have a first-rate education system already. But just look at the statistics today!

If there are 100 pupils who enter grade school in the Philippines:
- at least 30 of those are underweight during their elementary years;
- only 65 complete grade school; while only 23 gain reading comprehension;
- only 43 eventually finish high school.

The problem doesn’t stop there. Upon graduating high school…
- only 3 achieve the required mastery in English.
- only 1 achieves the required mastery in Science.
- only 7 achieve the required mastery in Math.

The temptation for us candidates is to continue mouthing the usual platitudes without being serious about it. This is going to be disastrous for the country. So let’s move beyond the platitudes. Let’s take a good hard look at our system and ask ourselves what do these numbers mean? To me, they show how the government is investing so little in basic education. Did you know that we’re only spending 2% of our GDP on such an important aspect of our country when the global norm is twice that? Specifically, the numbers tell me that:

1. We’re using an inappropriate medium of instruction for a child’s early years;
2. The poor health of the student affects the drop-out rate early on.
3. The poor quality/performance of teachers needs to be seriously addressed.
4. We have an incomplete and inadequate curriculum in both elementary and high school.
5. The enforcement of educational quality by state universities and colleges is sub-par.
6. Those outside the formal system lack options to succeed.

We’ve invested a lot of time in researching the issues and talking to stakeholders. As a result, we’ve drafted a Omnibus Education Bill that proposes to solve these problems comprehensively by implementing the following actions:

Use of the mother tongue as a mode of instruction in the early years of elementary schooling. There is a broad consensus in educational research that competency in the core subjects (English, Science and Math) which are crucial for communication and competition are best achieved if taught in the mother tongue. This should not be confused with giving up English. Proficiency in English is absolutely essential, period. But it’s not needed as a medium of instruction when the subject is math or science. In fact, such misapplication is harmful.

We have to help children overcome their health problems that actually hinder them from attending/completing their education. The school feeding program is an important element, but we have to ensure that it provides a healthy and balanced diet. Instead, our children have been force-fed overpriced noodles. There has been no worse indictment of our neglect of education than this scam at the expense of our children. And, tellingly, no one has had to face any consequences. This has got to change.

Improving the quality and performance of our teachers is the single most influential factor in determining how well schools perform and students learn. The bill proposes pre-service training, licensure examination, in-service updating, and management training for principals and school heads.

Improving  the curriculum for elementary and high school entails (a) having compulsory pre-school education, (b) making high school more relevant, and (c) increasing the total number of “basic years” our children spend in school.

  1. Compulsory preschool should address critical readiness for children entering Grade 1.
  2. High school should be designed for two kinds of students: those who want to immediately work after graduating and those who want to pursue higher education. The bill establishes this two-track curriculum giving a much desired option for our high school graduates.
  3. Elite private school children receive 11 years. The global norm is 12. Did you know that the Philippines is the only country in Asia, and one of the three remaining countries in the world, to have only 10 years of basic education?  We can’t expect to cram, in 10 years, what our more advanced neighbors go through in 12 and still expect good results.

Forcing quality into the SUC sector can be done by making government funding dependent on two things: performance and student population rather than just on the latter. This allows us to shut down programs in SUCs which aren’t performing very well in PRC exams.

For those who have less access to formal education, more funding/access to alternative learning systems would be appropriate.

As a basic right, each child should have access to quality education. This is the best way for us to catch up with our neighbors that have long made wise and huge investments in their own educational systems. But we have to start with the basics. So this is what we commit to do. The bill has already been filed and I ask your support in making this proposed solution a reality. If you have thoughts about this, I would love to hear them.  Thanks!


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  • rufarri

    Hehe, so true, you can't feed the mind while the tummy is growling in hunger.
    One biggest challenge for the teachers is how to make their students interested in what they're teaching and in learning.

    As to, “We can’t expect to cram, in 10 years, what our more advanced neighbors go through in 12 and still expect good results.” Well, what others can do in 12 years we can do it in just 10 years. lol It's not impossible. Uh, cockiness…

  • Babe Erese

    Amen to that!

  • Che

    my daughter is studying at a private school with an average of 50 students per classroom. to think that this is an exclusive private school. tuition for a year in grade 4 is more or less 45k. there's no aircon. by the time my child goes to college, how much will it cost me? a single mom like me needs to work hard day and night to give my child a good education and yet i have to contend with 50 students per class (this is the school where your beloved is an alumni)… hay…. maybe we single moms deserves discounts too just like the senior citizens.

  • teresita woodard

    Ang suggesion ko po a bawat mahirap na pamilya, give full scholarship sa isang anak, give employment or sponsor working abroad, para siya na tutulong sa pamilya niya makaangat sa pamumuhay nila, this will take effect sa kasuluksulukan ng buong plipnas.

  • nat323

    Great to hear that you've a plan to tackle the state of public education. I know that Pres GMA has tapped into the private sector to help improve the public schools and I've actually volunteered for such a project. We went to several schools in Nueva Ecija and spoke to the stakeholders in their respective communities. The goal was to eventually build a profile of the public schools in the country and at the same time, try to create concrete steps to make things better. With just this as my basis and given secondary research data, I agree with your findings esp. points two (poor health) and three (poor quality). This might be a smaller piece of the puzzle but improvements in infrastructure (ie having a proper roof, electricity, walls, etc) and school books/ supplies are also needed– perhaps the private sector can help with this as well.

  • teresita woodard

    full scholarship for children of poor families as they finished college, give them jobs so they will be the one to help their families achieved a better life in the future.

  • vmcsantiago

    The Omnibus Education Bill seems to be similar to the No Child Left Behind Act that the United States is implementing now. It is very idealistic but if implemented well, a very bright future awaits our children. I do believe that the educational foundation that a person gets especially in elementary and high school is an integral part in performing well in his chosen field — whether it be the corporate world, politics, public service, business, etc. Some of us are lucky to have been put to the best schools by our parents (I am a Theresian like Ms. Korina :D ), but it is sad that even in the best of schools, the quality of education has really deteriorated. Most of our great teachers have left the country for a better opportunity. I agree with you that it is of utmost importance to improve the quality of teachers we have. I think that teachers' morale needs to be uplifted and maybe we can do that by providing them with a much better compensation and also giving them continuous training and development. I do hope that this bill may be passed so that we may see the fulfillment of our dream for a brighter future for our children.

    Keep up the good work, Senator Mar and may you continue to do more as the next Vice President. :-)

  • Roxanne

    Thank you for the informative article!

    Is education the biggest amount implemented in our national budget?

    It saddens me to read some students could not finish school or does not have enough information to prepare them for the real world. From my own personal experience, I took 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th in United States. They only called it 10th grade as a shortcut of 'sophomore' (9th – freshman 11th – junior, 12th – senior) The important matter here if we have enough teacher or books to teach these kids.

    You are in favor of having 7th grade 'as' a remedial stage in students. I have to disagree with you because why do they really need to take remedial classes if the problem is lack of books, teachers, or classroom.

    I am in favor of having good quality education but putting another year or two is still questionable. We can still improve our education system without making students study more but on what information or teaching we give them.

  • msavista

    Senator Roxas
    You are like a breath of fresh air in
    the Philippine political arena..
    I was so grateful to have found
    your website realizing that
    someone with your stature & influence
    believe & feel the same way
    I do about how important education is.

    Indeed, ignorance or lack of knowledge,
    wrong ways of thinking
    & behaving is the root cause of
    practically every problem.

    I've written & posted somewhere
    else in your blog but I'm ireterating
    my views here because I believe it
    bears repeating.
    I know you know all of these.
    It is my hope that the Filipinos who
    come to visit your blog & read this will be
    more supportive of significant
    educational initiatives..

    Here are the reasons why
    I believe reprogramming is the
    key to the solutions to the Philippines'
    recurring problems.

    For the last 100+ years after liberation
    from the Spaniards, the modus operandi
    in the Philippines was corrupt.
    The colonizers taught the
    Maharlikans to follow what they
    alleged to be gospel truth.
    such as “God told man to go forth
    & multiply”
    Surely , God did not mean for man
    to multiply to the extent of poverty as
    there is only so much resource
    for so many people..
    (Perhaps we should rethink the country's name
    back to its original name. Philippines
    was the name given by colonizers
    so changing it would probably
    help unleash people from
    colonial mentality.

    They used the sword & the cross to
    intimidate & colonize the Maharlikans.
    They also taught them their corrupt,
    indolent, contempt for manual labor,
    & arrogant ways.
    They treated the Maharlikans as inferior “Indios”.
    The colonizers taught
    the subjugated Maharlikans their values.

    For example, they taught them
    to appreciate the white
    skin, aquiline nose & adapt the
    caucasian features as the acceptable
    standard of beauty.

    Try asking a Filipino what he /she considers
    good looking & he/she along with the majority
    of Filipinos would consider one
    with mestiza/ mestizo/ caucasian
    features to be good looking.
    No wonder many /Filipinos
    dislike the shape of his nose
    & his “dark” complexion.

    They destroyed many aspects of the
    Maharlikan culture & replaced
    same with theirs..
    The Maharlikans had their
    own alphabet & metal industry prior to
    the arrival of the colonizers.

    They also helped each other
    & practiced “bayanihan”.

    But by pitting the chiefs against each other,
    the Spaniards made it feasible to subjugate them.

    Prehispanic Maharlika had their own
    concept of the roles of men & women.
    where women were even heads of familiies.

    During the Spanish colonization period,
    education of the people, particularly, women,
    was discouraged. They wanted to keep
    women ignorant.
    If mothers are kept ignorant, they would
    not be able to teach their kids
    democratic ideas / concepts of liberty.

    To keep the Maharlikans subjugated,
    the Spaniards kept the women

    How about the Americans?
    What did we learn from them?

    They taught us English
    which eventually replaced Spanish
    & Tagalog as the official medium of
    instruction & became the language
    commonly used in business,
    the judicial system, & social situations.
    (I'm writing this in English!).

    It became the status symbol of the elite.

    The Americans made us agree to their
    exploration & exploitation
    of our natural resources
    including precious metals such as gold,
    silver, copper, etc. & millions of tons
    of our forest timber.
    They made us think we should be
    grateful to them for helping fight
    off the Japanese although it was
    a war the Philippines would not
    have been a party of. except the US
    had military bases in the Philippines.

    General MacArthur came back
    after so many Filipinos & Americans
    lost their lives.

    They also taught as their
    norms & mores through
    occupation, books,
    magazines, & movies.

    We sing Christmas songs as though
    we have snow in the Philippines
    & we have been observed to be
    more Americans than the Americans
    themselves at times.

    And of course, we love just about anything
    American which has been very
    good for American commerce
    but did not benefit Philippine

    We learn so qucikly & how we learn!

    Just like the Spaniards,
    they also treated the Maharlikans
    inferior making them work
    in the US Navy & other branches
    of the US armed forces as
    kitchen workers & valets.
    They treated Filipinos not better than
    they treated blacks.

    If you were a Filipino in the US
    in the 1920's. you will have to sit in
    the back of the bus, line up where
    the coloreds are to have a drink,
    get shot at if seen carousing with
    white females.

    According to some old timer accounts,
    there were signs that
    read: “Filipinos & Dogs Keep Out”
    on restaurants & other public places.

    Want to get promoted
    or thinking of becoming an
    officer or marrying an American?
    You must be dreaming if you were
    there in this period.

    But look at the US today.
    The president is black or colored!!!!

    Americans have radically changed their
    political landscape. This did not come
    over night. Through the years, norms
    have changed & laws against
    discriminatory practices were passed..

    Okay enough of the colonization period.

    I went at length about it
    to illustrate that people can be taught
    other ways of thinking & behaving
    which the Filipinos/Maharlikans
    have refused to believe is true for them..

    Filipinos today would usually say
    “It is in the blood ” of Filipinos to be corrupt.
    “Anong magagawa mo/ko”?
    In the literal sense, it is arguably true that
    the majority of Maharlikans/Filipinos have Spanish blood

    But I have not come across any proof
    anywhere that culture is genetically transferred.

    As a matter of fact, there were experiments done
    to test the theory that there is a superior race.
    They immersed kids from different racial groups
    in the same cultural experience/learning situation
    & they found out that race had nothing to do with the
    progress of the student.

    As previously mentioned,
    corruption & other ills of the country
    were learned through rogramming
    which has become a habitual way of thinking
    & behaving for hundreds of years.

    So how can we change
    this way of thinking & behaving?

    First, we must believe it is doable.

    We must have more faith in ourselves.

    We have to think more as a nation rather
    than merely islanders.

    We can start reminding ourselves
    that what we do today
    would be for love of country
    & our kids & their kids..

    We can't afford to remain in denial.

    We have to be honest about
    ouselves & confront the truth
    so we can give change
    & a better life & future a chance.

    We can't afford to wait.
    We have let the cancer become malignant.
    like Rizal wrote in his Noli Me Tangere.

    It is not up to only the leaders
    to effect changes in the country.
    It is every Filipino's responsibility
    to take part in the transformation.

    Otherwise, it will never happen.

    The problem is it took 300+ years
    for Filipinos to get rid of the
    tyrannic Spaniards, almost 50 years
    to get independence from the Americans
    & about 25 years to get rid of Marcos'.dictatorship.

    Filipinos are way too patient/apathetic for their
    own good.

    there is a need to shake off that colonial mentaltity
    & assert political rights as FREE people
    with the power to vote & oust any abusive/corrupt leader.
    To show political maturity,
    they must learn to value their right of suffrage
    & use it wisely to flex their power..

    Power resides in the people
    & the kind of government of
    any country reflects the kind
    of people who voted them to office.

    Senator, no offense intended.

    You are more the exception
    so the fact that you got elected is good.
    That means there is hope for
    political maturity for the country.

    There are obviously 20 million Filipinos
    who are progressive thinkers.

    We need to make it as close to
    80 million as possible if we want to see
    significant changes take place.
    because there is a need for good leaders
    nation wide to make good things happen.

    We need those enlightened citizens to vote
    wisely & choose more good leaders.

    Other than looking at our common
    cultural experience through a brief revisit
    to our history, behavioral scientists
    have done numerous studies
    on behaviuir modification. & these
    sientists have proven that the human mind
    can be programmed, deprogrammed ,
    & reprogrammed.

    Having said that, I truly believe that the key to
    a better, more progressive Philippines
    is a radical & comprehensive revamp
    of our educational sytem through
    a candid & thorough evaluation
    after which can be done
    designing the curriculum content
    with the objective of including those
    subjects which would serve best every Filipino
    & the national interest.would follow.

    The type/quality of education
    or content is the key
    or solutions to recurring
    problems in the Philippines
    which is rooted in ignorance/
    wrong/bad programmming such as:

    1. lack of ethics/opportunism/corruption,
    1a. abuse of power

    2. political immaturity,
    apathy, inaction & acceptance of illegal /
    criminal activities due to fear, fear
    due to ignorance of legal options,
    3. divisiveness/low degree of civic consciousness;
    4 irresponsible parenthood/
    population explosion;
    5. pollution,
    6. inequitable distribution of resources;
    6. poverty;
    7. malnutrition & diseases;,
    8 wanton/irresponsible use of natural resources;.
    9. illeteracy & fanaticism (following the learned
    concept without question nor analysis);
    inadequate education & high unemployment;
    10. lack of check & balance system
    due to weakened press/annihilation of journalists.
    There are so many college
    graduates / “educated”
    people in the country;
    however when it comes to
    using that education,
    many are influenced by their
    culture or programming (pakikisama/
    utang na loob/padrino system/
    bahala na attitude/
    there is nothing I can do/
    short sighted/selfish/materialistic
    so the education takes a
    back seat; thus, “schooled:”
    would be more the appropriate
    rather than “educated”.
    term for these people.

    We need to deprogram or unlearn
    the unproductive/digressive/bad
    ways of thinking & behaving
    that have been with us through
    programming or acculturation..

    Let us keep the good but get rid of the bad.

    By designing progressive ideas
    & replacing /reprogramming
    the old thinking & behaving habits,
    we Filipinos can change.

    Scientists have published
    research that prove the
    human mind can be programmed,
    deprogrammed & reprogrammed.

    Through reprogramming
    or acculturation we can dare to hope
    for a much more progressive

    It will take time so the sooner
    it is started the better
    as we will see results sooner.

    To effect desired changes,
    the curriculum has to include
    ethics at all levels starting
    from kindergarten..

    By programming kids as early as possible,
    we can hope to have better leaders
    & less corruption. in the years to come.

    Adult schools must be set up
    so parents or adults can relearn how
    to be truly Christian & ethical.

    They can learn better
    ways of thinking & doing things —-
    or reprogram them to adapt the
    new culture for Progressive Philippines.

    New Ways of Thinking & Behaving

    These topics/subjects can be
    included in the curriculum
    or taught/programmed
    for all ages (as applicable):

    1. Value, exercise, & protect
    civic & political rights,.appreciate the
    privileges of citizenship & mindful of
    the obligation & responsiblity that
    come with it.

    1a. Dissect pertinent issues & vote intelligently
    based on relevant issues & qualification of candidates.;
    1b. Be vigilant.. Report any illegal/anomalous/criminal actvity
    to mass media or ask the government to provide a hot line
    for such or an independent group to do so;
    2.. Practice conservation/
    protection /.wise use of resources;
    3 Help reduce global warming;
    by adapting habits that are
    earth friendly, such as
    recycling wastes to save trees
    thus helping reduce carbon emissions,

    4. Help control pollution by helping create & keep
    a clean environment,
    keep our rivers, lakes, & seas clean,
    plant trees to help reforest denuded areas;

    5. Use renewable sources of energy where available.
    Lobby the government to support
    inventors of affordable renewable sources of energy;

    6 . Volunteerism or “bayanihan” ;.
    8. Responsible parenthood;
    9. Attend adult education classes/use
    the library to keep current
    on important issues;
    learn vocational skills to improve
    economic status;

    10.Scientific thinking.
    Research should be encouraged
    Analytical & critical thinking should be taught
    so we can develop minds that can compete successfully
    in the global arena & manufacture the machines
    & industrial tools we need'
    instead of depending on imports & limiting ourselves to
    assembling parts. to meet our inustrial.

    There is a need for a proper framework by which we can move forward
    as far as reforms in the country are concerend that is why we need to have ethics
    taught at all educational levels.
    By including in the curriculum the above mentioned subjects,
    I believe we shall have the foundation we need to achieve more. as a nation..
    have a more democratic & progressive & competitive
    country every Filipino deserves & can be proud of.

    Definitely, there is a need to raise
    the standards for teachers' education
    & hiring standards as well.
    Incentives should be provided to
    attract the most talented & dedicated
    We should ask representatives to support
    legislation Senator Roxas has authored so more
    money will be budgeted & prioritized for more
    equipment for schools & to build more learning centers
    including libraries, adult schools , & community centers.
    Thank you for your attention.

  • msavista

    By the way, Senator,
    there is a FREE vehicle
    for non-profits by which Filipinos
    world wide can help fund hometown projects.

    Please let me know of Philippines based
    reputable duly registered non-profit organizations
    involved in educatiion and/or nutrition programmes
    or have them contact me directly.

    Recommendation from readers of this blog
    is also welcome.

    Salamat gid kag kabay pa nga
    ang Ginuo padayon nga maghatag
    sa imo, Noynoy, kag tanan nga inyo
    kaupod sang maayo nga lawas kag
    masinag nga panghunahuna para
    mahimo o matabo ang transformative agenda
    nga kinahanglan gid para sa kaayuhan sang
    tanan ng pumuloyu.

    Gaulikid man.

    Ms. A Vista

  • lilianlabarbera

    Dear Senator Mar,
    I dont agree with you, I attended public school from grade 1 thru high school, which is equivalent to ten years. I believe that I have quality education as compared to my American co -worker. I 'm here now in USA working as a Nurse. I could say if not for the hardworking teachers who are very dedicated and inspire us to achieve excellence , a lot of Filipino overseas worker and Filipino working locally won't be successful.Funding for continuing education, and performance improvement is by far the most utmost concern for all our teachers, and don't hesitatate to increase their salary.Our country is still poor because of the corruption going on`. No matter how you work hard you are not compensated for your talent, except for celebrities.Before you got your paycheck, tax is already deducted in your paycheck, but probably most big corporation and some RICH people could get away with it, maybe thru the help of some politicians, by paying only a portion of they think they should pay, no wonder alot of people who works in BIR are always well to do.I belong to the ordinary people, never tasted luxury in life, like probably you do and people around you. We should look at the qulity not quantity . I married an American, I lived here in USA. My kids is attending school here which would take her 12 years total before she could go to college, 2 years is lot, for us ordinary people to support a child to spend for education, when we would like to expect our children to be in College and graduate before she turn 21. You should look at the point of view of a parent who is leaving on paycheck to paycheck basis.
    Discrimination is so rampant in the Philippines, that is the most important thing they should look at. On your resume you still need to indicate your age, height , weight even marriage status why? and if you dont belong to a well known school they usually disqualify you. No wonder a lot of us would rather work abroad , we are more appreciated here. I love Philippines but I get sick and tired of unequal opportuniy and discrimination in my own country.
    By the way I attended Pinyahan elementary school, Concepcion Elementary school and Marikina Institute of Science and Technology . I hope you will succeed and May God Bless You and our Native Land.
    P.S. I f you become our next President please don't spend too much like Pres.GPA for a kuhol dinner, ha ha ha. let me cook for you so we can save money for our country men.
    Lilian Sanchez La Barbera
    Orlando, Florida

  • Lian

    Senator Mar,

    I surely hope you would re-think about implementing the use of Mother tongue as a medium of instruction in the elementary level. As Filipinos, English is our competitive advantage, which includes being able to do Mathematics and Sciences in English. If these subjects are taught in Filipino in elementary then we will be forced to do the same in high school and college in order to preserve continuity. The result will just be graduates who are incompetent in the global level.

    Instead of meddling with the language of instruction, why not invest on improving the quality of our English teachers. This is obviously not a simple task but a doable one. Why don't we reform our educational system that would cut the costs on unnecessary subjects such as Values Education, which in my opinion shall be taught at home and not in school? When I was in Elementary before, we have 3 hours of Values Ed/GMRC class every week, I think this is just wasteful and could instead be use in having an extra hour for Math, Science, and English a week. That way, the level of Mastery in Math and Science will also increase.

  • winchelle

    hi musta i am winchelle isang handicapped… studyante meron ako sabihin sayo bt how

  • The Thought Sieve

    I agree! Good thinking! It’s also feasible. Politicians should think about this.

  • The Thought Sieve

    I want to ask why your proposition for reform in Philippine education in terms of adding years to basic education should be for elite private schools only? Shouldn't it be for both public and private schools, as it would help fill the learning gap in public schools due to overcrowding, lack of materials and classrooms, competent teachers, etc.?

  • The Thought Sieve

    Please also read Ms. Teresita Woodard's comment below. She said: “Ang suggesion ko po a bawat mahirap na pamilya, give full scholarship sa isang anak, give employment or sponsor working abroad, para siya na tutulong sa pamilya niya makaangat sa pamumuhay nila, this will take effect sa kasuluksulukan ng buong plipnas.” Isn't this a sound plan too? What do you think about it Sir?

  • boieconraddublin

    I totally agree with proposed changes as spelled out in the bill. It saddens me every time I see a compartiot lose out on job opportunities simply because they can't express themselves well in english much less, comprehend instructions as they go about filling application forms, particularly those working abroad like OFWs seeking better paying postitions. The bill, if enacted into law would ensure that the deficiences in our present educational system would be remedied and improved. I'll keep close watch.

  • Just Saying

    I think his point was that elite private schools – which are considered our best schools, comparatively – are still inadequate in terms of years of basic education provided, not that only private schools would enjoy added years under the bill.
    So the point was to emphasize, with the private school example, that our system is already grossly inadequate. He wasn't saying only private schools would be covered under the proposition for more years of basic education. :)

  • Just Saying

    Hello :)

    I'd just like to point out that Senator Mar proposed the use of the mother tongue language in the early years of education. This does not necessarily mean abandoning English instruction completely.

    There have been many studies about the use of mother tongue-based education, as well as bilingual or multilingual education built on a solid foundation in the student's mother tongue. Our students today are supposedly “bilingual,” even “multilingual,” because they know their mother tongue (eg Filipino, Cebuano, etc) as well as English – but the problem with our current system is that most students merely parrot the English taught to them, instead of having enough understanding of the language to use it in learning other subjects.

    Sure, taken as a whole, Filipinos are better than some close Asian neighbors when it comes to English. But we still get signs that say “Parking reserved for costumers only,” and our neighbors are still beating us in subjects like math and science. It turns out our comparative advantage isn't that big after all, and it diminishes even more after we take into account our education as a whole, and not just English. The truth is that we are lagging behind in most subject areas, and while we can converse better in English than some nationalities, we often only look EXCELLENT at it because some of our neighbors speak it worse.

    Why is this? It happens because we are instilling English into our children before they have even mastered Filipino/Cebuano/whatever their mother tongue language is. So our children are faced with the task of mastering not one but two languages at the same time. It's a subtractive kind of “bilingual” education, because our students never achieve mastery in either their mother tongues or English. Kind of like a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none situation. Our schoolchildren are “bilingual” but hardly “biliterate.”

    This problem then seeps into our learning of other subjects. In the early grades, our schoolchildren are still new to English, and their subjects in school are presented to them in that new language. This is not to belittle children's capability to learn – I am merely acknowledging the fact that no one who has just been introduced to a language should attempt to use that same language to learn something new. Given rudimentary Mandarin lessons, for example, no one would try to read a research paper entirely in Mandarin immediately after. The research paper is presenting an entirely new concept we're not familiar with, and we haven't even learned the nuances of Mandarin yet.

    But that's exactly what we're asking our schoolchildren to do with English in school: tackle new and unfamiliar concepts with a new and somewhat-unfamiliar language.

    Your concerns about having to get rid of English to preserve continuity are easily addressed by easing our schoolchildren into the use of English as a medium of instruction. That is, start them on the basics of math and science using the language they are most familiar with (mother tongue), while starting them on the road to learning English at the same time. The crucial thing here is that they do not stop learning English – we're just holding off on teaching them other subjects using English until they're ready for it. The gradual transition to learning math and sciences in English would also be easier to manage because our students would have a sound foundation in these subjects' basic concepts, due to their learning it in the language they were more familiar with at the time.

    In the end we have to let go of our notion of English as a “superior” language. True, English is the lingua franca of the globalized world – but we must allow our children the chance to offer the globalized world more than just English proficiency. Through mother tongue instruction in the early years of grade school, paired with better instruction leading to better mastery of the English language, we give our students not just the language needed to share their thoughts with the world, but also – hopefully – a solid foundation in the kind of thinking that gives birth to thoughts worth sharing.

    Here are some articles on the matter that are available online, in case you want to learn more about mother tongue multilingual/bilingual education.
    The UNESCO stand on Mother Tongue Multilingual Education:
    On English as a Second Language:

    I am not claiming to be an expert on mother tongue bilingual/multilingual education, but having taken a course that has focused heavily on this subject, I've acquired a number of related print and journal sources that I can also send to you if you want to learn more. :)

  • dhiane

    what was the 10 arguments of mar roxsas?

  • Andie

    Hi Mr. Roxas,

    What do you think of dramatically increasing our public school teachers' salaries, as an incentive for improved performance and/or better-qualified applicants? Are you for or against this? How can it be operationalized?

    I understand you have both limited space here and time for addressing individual comments/suggestions, so your response need not be terribly long. Thank you very much.

  • jaypaxginete

    I have been teaching (full-time and part-time) for 10 years and recognizing the problem and its context is the first step in finding a solution (or if you what to be P.C. about it, solutions). I think Mr. Roxas got it right. But I would like to make a point.

    An invest in Information Technology education; The world is going IT and students without basic IT skills will be marginalized in this new society. And when I say IT skills, I don't mean just how to use the mouse or turn on a computer but more productive skills like Word Processing, Spreadsheets, basic PC troubleshooting or using the Internet. It's all well and good that a Filipino can speak English but he is seriously, seriously screwed if he can't type up a document and then print or email it.

  • Lourdes Dayrit Co

    I agree with this educational reform suggestions. However, i didnt able to read possible actions or suggestion or soultions to uplift the technical vocational education. Isn't that techvoc education is one among the top lists of occupations source. But how can we encourage our high school graduates to take vocational or technical course, while it has a “low standard image”? Until the government didnt push a law to uplift the current status of techvoc education, there will always have a overcrowding of graduates in college courses. I suggest to your excellency a substantial Bill that can transform techvoc courses into professional level comparable to college courses where they can enjoy high social status and not inferior image.

    Much have been doing to uplift the basic education, secondary and tertiary but being neglected the techvoc education. I wish there is one like you to author the long been dream to realized the professionalization of techvoc education.

    With high regards to your excellent views. Mabuhay.

    Yours truly,
    Lourdes Dayrit Co
    Teacher, Tony Galvez School of Cosmetology, Inc.

  • noraizapdipatuan

    Mr.Mar Roxas gusto ko pong humingi ng tolung gusto ko po talagang makatapos ng pag aaral sana po ay sponsoran niyo po ako sa aking pag aaral kamamatay lang po ng aking ama at pito kaming magkakapatid at ang ina ko po ay isang labandera lamang ang kanyang kita ay para lang sa aming pagkain sana po ay matulongan niyo po ako sa aking mga pangarap ako po ay taga GENERAL SANTOS CITY salamat po

  • Lourdes Co


    Maraming succesful stories na umasenso ang isang tao. Ikaw ang una sa lahat gagawa ng kapalaran mo. Pwede ka mag apply ng scholarship. Kung tage Ge4nsan ka, alamin mo sa lugar nyo ang mga free education, or mag working student. ang may kilala ako working student sa night shift at ng aaral umaga. Nag work sya bilang student assistant sa registrars office, part time. Also ng work din sya as messenger until natapos nya ang college degree ng electrical engineerinbg. Sa tiyaga nagkaroon sya ng magandang work. Now, isa na sya EDP manager, or electronic data processing manager. marami pa. sana maging inspiration ito sayo.

  • Achilles

    Textbooks, textbooks, textbooks, who is looking into all the 'typos' in a lot of textbooks, specially those used by our pre-schoolers and early scchoolers.

  • Nyanya

    Go Mar Roxas :) can't wait when youre the actual president

  • Yeye

    I dare to disagree with you on this, Achilles. Perhaps, the problem is not the “textbooks” but the way books are introduced and integrated into a child's learning.

    If you go to the States, and other highly-developed countries, you'll find that many people, in their spare time, on their way to work, during their rides on public transportation vehicles, all read books to enrich their minds. This is how children should learn to love reading books, they are there for the good of everyone. Knowledge is power, remember that.

  • Yeye

    As for the 'typos,' it really is the responsibility of the teachers and the school administration to make sure children's reading materials are of good quality.

  • raulnnorbe

    Creativity as a subject should be taught in school especially in the elementary grades starting from Grade 4 to Grade 6. I do believe, Filipinos are more creative than other Aseans. Creativity is in our blood Filipinos.

  • Zak

    Sen. Roxas,

    I applaud that you have put education as a major pillar of your platform. But can you please be even more specific on how you plan to implement these much needed reforms given that much has been said and done before. What will make your administration different? Who will the Liberal Party have as the country's education secretary should you win? We need concrete and comprehensive plans to avert the ongoing education crisis we have.

  • lourdesdayritco

    I agree. Unless we got a good leaders who are sincere and love people, we can't get improvement. I grown up with leaders who are selfish. Why people suffer? Yes, it start with education. My heart is crying when i see children who can't go to school because of poverty. This should be given a sincere attention.

    Why people are giving taxes? Government should in return provide services to people to exercise their right to enjoy the taxes. Why there are a lot of people died without solution? Its because of poverty. What are these governemt hospitals?

    And lastyly, I wish my dream turn into reality to see more government schools form basic to collegiate.

  • Ed Madamba, Chairman, LGU-SOL

    All that we wish for is an honest to goodness representation in governance. We have been clamoring for a balance representation in the Shelter Agencies in government, however, up to this time no action has been taken by the President, Vice President and the Social Housing Finance Board. The Local Government Shelter Officers Leaque was established in 2004 pushing for reforms in the SHFC in order to deliver affordable and decent housing for the poor sector of society. We hope and pray when you assume office give us the chance to help the poor by giving us voice in the BOD of the SHFC. God Bless you.

  • Des

    Ninoy Mar, this is your ihada from Bago City. Sa ma-ao. Do you still remember my father? He used to be your driver, Francis Ted Torrecarion. Is there any way I could send you an email privately? I really need your help. Thanks ninoy! You can email me at

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